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Creative agencies, diversity and long hours.

Mathew Cutts  |  5 February 2018

To become diverse, creative agencies need to stop the long hours culture…

There is a lot of talk about agencies needing to diversify. To do this well and to adapt to more progressive working practices they are going to have to change, and the biggest change will have to be the long hours culture. But why?

I was recently asked by workingmums.co.uk to take part in a Google Hangout for the Mindset Shift Summit. Sarah Sutton from Genie Ventures and myself (Co-founder of Cuttsy+Cuttsy and twice winner in the SME categories for workingmums.co.uk) joined Gillian Nissim, founder of workingmums who chaired the Hangout.

Sarah brought up something that really made me think. At Genie Ventures they have a policy of not working long hours, something we try not to do but it certainly isn’t a policy (yet!).

We have a diverse team of Mums, Dads, Not Mums, Not Dads and college leavers, the age range is broad as are their backgrounds including (that dreaded word) millennials. The only way we can bring a team like this together is to have individual working arrangements, some school hours, some three to four days a week alongside those who work full-time.

So how does this work? There are lots of reasons, but the one I hadn’t realised was the culture of not working long hours. As soon as long hours creep and those who have to leave on time leave on time, resentment starts to kick in and the whole thing breaks down.

But wait! Isn’t agency life all about long hours, short deadlines, late nights full of people who are trying to do their best work on the way up their career ladder? Don’t agency folk only do their best when they are under pressure and have had no sleep? Personally, I don’t think so!

We have been running C+C for almost seven years and we have never pulled an all-nighter and do not work into the evening as a rule. I am not saying that never stay a little later to get work done but this is an exception not the rule.

So how do we stop the long hours?

Don’t put up with the disruptive employee who thinks it’s fine to turn up late, disrupt others, only start any real work after lunch and then give disapproving looks to anyone who dare leave before 7pm.

Don’t let the most senior team member schedule work. Just because they are the most senior and skilled in their department, it doesn’t make them any good at scheduling.

Resource properly, be it permanent employees (staff levels) or through a good bank of freelancers and importantly plan ahead.

Reward for tasks done well not how long someone has been in the office.

Manage client expectations and don’t put up with unreasonable demands.

And finally trust your team and get them to trust you.

If you don’t think it can be done it’s time to diversify your thoughts.